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State Background Check Law
In August 2010, the Florida Legislature passed a law that requires specific types of employers to perform criminal background checks on all job applicants within five days of receiving their applications. Some of the types of employers include health care providers, schools, day cares, and senior citizen homes. The law is primarily designed to protect children and the elderly -- referred to as "vulnerable persons" -- from people who have been convicted of violent or sexual crimes. Employers that do not serve such persons may conduct criminal background checks, but they are not required to by law. If the background check reveals past convictions, the law specifies whether the applicant must be disqualified from employment.
Florida state law protects all job applicants' confidentiality in relation to background checks. Information obtained through the background check may only be used to determine whether an applicant meets the state's legal minimum requirements for employment. However, employers may release this information to other employers upon request. If an employee quits and then gets a new job, his new employer may request his background check information from his former employer. The law protects the former employer from any liability related to the release of the information.
The state's background check laws are meant to protect employees and vulnerable persons from job applicants who have violent criminal pasts. If an employer performs the background check in accordance with Florida law and the applicant is determined to be hirable, but later commits a violent crime, the employer is protected from lawsuits that accuse him of negligent hiring. As long as the employer has followed the law in performing the criminal background check, the law protects him.
The Tennessee legislature allows any person to access public records in state, municipal or county offices unless those records have a specific exemption. Public offices must allow individuals to access public records during regular open office hours. Individuals may not expect that a public official will affect the search. Each local office that maintains records may charge a reasonable fee to individuals who wish to search the records database. Individuals may acess any records, in whatever form that the record exists, which connects with official business transacted by any governmental agency. Many records that an employer might use as a background check exist in the form of applications and court or police documents.
Non-Accessible Records in Archives
Employers may not access an applicant's medical records from a state, county or municipal hospital or medical facility, or the medical records of a person who receives medical treatment, at the state, county or municipality's expense. Employers can not access Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigative records, records from the office of inspector general, records from criminal investigative files of the department of environment and conservation or the department of agriculture, records from criminal investigative files of the Department of Motor Vehicles, or applications for handgun carrying permits. Employers can, however, find many of these records through online searches. Employers may not access public educational institutions' records regarding a student and they may not access an applicant's military records.
State or Federal Positions
A state or federal employer can turn to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to ask for a background check of employees. The employer may request that the employee provide personal references and supply fingerprint samples for submission to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a criminal records check. The employer may also request that the applicant release information that will allow a state licensed private investigation company to conduct a private investigation check of the individual who has applied for a State or Federal position.
The employer must incur all costs related to the investigation of an applicant's background.
Online Searches or Private Investigators
Employers may turn to a state licensed private investigation company or an Internet search company for an online search of public records that will provide information about the applicant's arrest warrants and criminal history records. Many Internet people search companies offer this service for a fee (see resources). Employers can also see if the applicant has a history of bankruptcy, drunk driving or has ever been identified as a sex offender.